Some time last year I had the idea to do a series of "inspiration" posts. At the time I was making a lot of things that weren't quite right and didn't get worn, and I thought it might help me focus a bit and get me making more interesting things. What I actually did was think of a few ideas and then get hugely overwhelmed by the whole thing, so it never ended up happening. However, now that nearly a year has passed, I think I'm in a much better place to give it a try. I'm not sure exactly what form this series is going to take yet, but we shall see.
My first chosen subject is Patrick, my boyfriend. This was the first idea I had, and bits of this post were actually written as far back as last September. If I may direct your attention to this photo, taken about six weeks before I made my first skirt:
This is a paisley button-up shirt that Dorothy Perkins was selling last spring. I took the photo to send to my boyfriend, thinking it was hilarious
that a women's clothing shop would have taken him on as a fashion icon, and I carried on thinking it was hilarious until every single women's clothing shop was overrun by button-up shirts and ridiculous paisley prints, and then I decided to hasten my plans to learn dressmaking because otherwise I wouldn't be able to find anything to wear.
Patrick has an extremely specific sense of personal style which resembles mine not the tiniest bit, so it's rather a big ask for a first go at this. Yet in a strange kind of way it does feel like an appropriate thing to do. This is a man who cares a hell of a lot more about his clothes than I've done for the last few years, and any hints of my turning into a shoe person are his fault entirely. I ask for and trust his opinions on what I buy or wear, and if he secretly finds it tiresome then he's a phenomenal actor who really ought to think about branching out his skills further. I've also come to know his style pretty damn well, so it's a fairly solid base to take inspiration from.
My first thought was "floofy-skirted dress in Liberty print", because he loves both those things, but a floofy-skirted Liberty print dress with a delicate pink floral on a white background (which is his preferred style of Liberty print) is exactly the sort of thing that would summon the wrath of Teen Goth Jen and I'd have to spend a year making a massive leather coat to get her to shut up again.
I rethought and came up with these criteria:
1. I will make the dress in a Liberty print
2. The Liberty print does not have to be one that Patrick would wear
3. The silhouette will be one I feel comfortable in
4. The dress will have various small details, either from the pattern as drafted or added by me
A month or so ago, long after I first came up with the above, I was on the Liberty website and saw a fabric I really liked in the sale. Patrick, who is a horrendous enabler and also really quite into the idea of me making Patrick-inspired dresses, bought me two metres of it as an anniversary present, and I decided to use it for my first attempt.
Once I had the fabric, it didn't take me long to choose the Deer and Doe Centauree dress as the right one for the project. The six-panel bodice was interesting and something I hadn't seen before, and the skirt seemed like a good compromise between Patrick's love of floof and my aversion to it.
And here it is!
I made a toile of the bodice first, which was fine aside from being slightly too baggy at the back, so I cut the back piece a size smaller for my Liberty fabric. The bodice looks like the most complicated bit, but I actually really enjoyed sewing it up and was even quite pleased I got to do it twice (well, three times, really, since I French seamed this dress). Actually, in terms of the sewing process alone, this is probably my favourite project ever. I felt like I was learning a lot, but I was learning it through things actually WORKING rather than going repeatedly and frustratingly wrong. I loved making this dress.
In terms of Patrick-style details, I French seamed the whole thing so it's fancy on the inside too, used two different colours for the double straps (I was originally just going to use the lemon until I realised that would make it really obvious that I was still wearing my normal bra underneath. I am wearing a strapless bra here for the purpose of actually showing the design details but I will never do that when I wear it on a regular day, because fuck complicated underwear arrangements for breezy summer dresses), and put in a sky blue invisible zip at the side. Secret colour!
The straps are made of bias binding, and again I loved doing it. I like bias binding anyway, but when they explained how to make the neat point in the middle of the neckline I started bouncing up and down in front of my sewing machine like the nerd that I am. Tricks! I LOVE tricks!
The print on the back is upside down because I forgot the fabric was directional and didn't have enough to recut. Eh. It's on the back, I'm not going to see it, if strangers in the street really want to bitch about it then they can. (Also, I am inexplicably wonky in this photo. I apologise.)
In terms of the end product, I will wear this a lot on hot days. There's definitely a huge gap in my wardrobe for light dresses in breathable fabrics, and this is both comfy and presentable. Were I to make this again (and I will), I would want to lower the waist a tiny bit, or add a waistband, and probably swap out the skirt as it's a bit too much floof for me. My toile gave me a potentially good idea, and I'd like to make a white and navy version with another skirt I like - either Butterick 4443, the Anna midi skirt, or the tulip skirt, which I haven't tried putting on a dress yet. But honestly, it's almost immaterial how it turns out. This dress was a joy to sew, and I'd be making more even if I didn't actually like it that much.
(I thought this was another smugface photo until I put it in the post and realised I just look super uncomfortable. Whoops.)